7.31

The Minister of Justice in Chen asked Confucius, “Did the Duke of Zhou know the rules of ritual?”

Confucius replied, “He did.”

After Confucius left, the minister bowed to his prince, Wuma Qi, and told him, “I have heard that a noble person is not biased, but maybe some are.

“The Duke of Zhou married a woman with the same clan, and justified it by saying that she came from ‘the Elder Family of Wu.’ If the Duke of Zhou knew the rules of ritual, then who doesn’t know them?”

Later, Wuma Qi told this to Confucius.

Confucius replied, “I’m a lucky man! When I make a mistake, other people always find out.”

9.24

Confucius said, “How can we disagree with exemplary sayings? But the real value is in reforming yourself according to those sayings. How can we not be pleased by gentle and tactful words of correction? But the real value is understanding the point of those words.

“To agree with sayings but not try to understand their point, to agree with advice but not follow through with actions—what can I do with people like that?”

12.22

Fan Chi asked Confucius about humaneness.

Confucius replied, “Love others.”

Fan Chi then asked about knowledge.

Confucius replied, “Know others.”

Fan Chi didn’t get it.

Confucius continued, “Place the upright over the crooked and the crooked will be straightened out.”

After Fan Chi left, he saw Zixia and said to him, “I was just asking Confucius about knowledge and he said, ‘Place the upright over the crooked and the crooked will be straightened out.’ What did he mean by this?”

Zixia replied, “How rich his words are! When Shun was emperor, he selected Gao Yao from among the people and put him in charge. Evil people kept their distance. When T’ang was emperor, he selected Yi Yin and put him in charge. Here again, the evil people kept their distance.”

12.23

Zigong asked about the way of friendship.

Confucius replied, “Be honest with your friends, and show them the right path with skill and tact. But if they’re unwilling to listen, just stop. Don’t humiliate yourself.”

13.15

Duke Ding asked if there’s a single phrase which could bring a state to prosperity.

Confucius replied, “No words can have that kind of effect. There is a saying that comes close, though: ‘Being a ruler is hard, and being a minister isn’t easy.’

“If this saying made a ruler realize the difficulty of the job, wouldn’t it come close to being a single phrase that could bring a state to prosperity?”

Duke Ding then asked, “Is there a single phrase which could ruin a state?”

Confucius replied, “No words can have that kind of effect. There is a saying that comes close, though: ‘There is only one joy in being a ruler: no one contradicts me.’

“If you’re right and no one contradicts you, that’s fine. But if you’re wrong and no one contradicts you—well, wouldn’t it come close to being a single phrase that could ruin a state?”

 

14.25

Qu Boyu sent a messenger to Confucius. Confucius sat with him and inquired, “What is Qu Boyu up to these days?”

“He’s trying to reduce his faults,” the messenger replied, “but he’s been unable to do so.”

After the messenger left, Confucius remarked, “Now there’s a messenger!”

16.1

The Jisun family was about to attack Zhuanyu, so Ran Qiu and Zilu went to see Confucius, saying, “The Jisun family is getting ready to move against Zhuanyu.”

Confucius said, “Ran Qiu, isn’t this your fault? Since ancient times the former kings have maintained Zhuanyu as the site of the sacrifice at Dong Meng mountain. Also, it’s located within our own state, and is subject to our national altars to the soil and grain. Why attack it?”

Ran Qiu replied, “It’s our lord who wants to do this, not the two of us as ministers.”

Confucius said, “Ran Qiu, the historian Zhou Ren said, ‘The one who displays his power is the one who gets the position; those who are not capable give up.’

“What sort of an assistant can’t steady his master when he totters or hold him up when he falls?

“Also, what you are saying is wrong. Who’s to blame when a tiger or a rhino escapes from its cage, or when a tortoise shell or jade is smashed in its case?”

Ran Qiu said, “But Zhuanyu is well-fortified and is located right next to the Ji family stronghold. If they don’t take it now, it will be a menace to their descendants.”

Confucius replied, “Ran Qiu! A noble person despises those who make excuses instead of just coming right out and saying what they want!

“I’ve heard it said that the heads of states or hereditary families don’t worry about poverty, but worry about inequality of distribution. They don’t worry about having too few people, but worry about unrest. When there’s fairness in distribution of wealth, there won’t be poverty. When there’s harmony in society, there won’t be a lack of people. When people are content, there’s no threat of unrest.

“So if people at a distance aren’t open to your rule, improve your ways and cultivate virtue to attract them. Once you’ve attracted them, see to it that they enjoy peace.

“But now, with the two of you as ministers, your lord can’t attract people from a distance, his land is falling apart, and he can’t hold onto it—and now he wants to wage war on one of his own provinces!

“For Lord Jisun, the real danger isn’t coming from Zhuanyu, but lies within his own walls.”

19.10

Zixia said, “The noble person earns the trust of the people before putting them to work. Without that trust, they’ll feel ill-used.

“The noble person earns the trust of a ruler before remonstrating with him. Without that trust, the ruler will feel slandered.”